Published 15th April 2016
Henry Vaughan And the Usk Valley
Edited by Elizabeth Siberry and Robert Wilcher
The poet Henry Vaughan (1621-1695) is widely known as one of the so-called ‘Metaphysical’ poets. It is not so well known that he was born, lived most of his life, and died in the Usk Valley in Brecknockshire; hence his soubriquet ‘Swan of Usk’. His grave, in the churchyard of St Bride’s, Llansantffraed, is an important site of literary pilgrimage. The changing skies over the Brecon Beacons, the hills, streams and bird-life that he knew so well, and the River Usk itself are celebrated in Vaughan’s poetry; but, inspired also by the life and religious poetry of George Herbert, he interweaves the sights and sounds of the natural world with profound spiritual experiences. The age in which Vaughan wrote was one of political and religious upheaval. As a staunch Royalist, he fought for the king and suffered the loss of friends and a beloved younger brother in the Civil Wars; and as a loyal member of the established church, he endured the banning of its liturgy by the victorious Puritans and the closing of many local churches, including his own place of worship at Llansantffraed, where his twin brother had been rector. All this is reflected in his poetry and prose.
This book, commissioned by the Brecknock Society and the Vaughan Association and published by Logaston Press, contains essays on Vaughan’s connections with the landscape, the church, and nature by Jeremy Hooker, Helen Wilcox and Jonathan Nauman, and on the political context of the wars of the 1640s and the interregnum of the 1650s by Robert Wilcher. During the last forty years of his life, Vaughan was a respected country doctor and this aspect of his life is discussed by Simone Thomas, herself a GP. Finally, Elizabeth Siberry explains how Vaughan’s work was rediscovered in the nineteenth century and describes his subsequent influence on writers, artists and musicians in Brecknockshire and beyond. Each chapter is accompanied by the full texts of some of Vaughan’s best loved and some of his lesser known poems, with explanatory notes and brief commentaries. The book will enhance a visit to the poet’s grave in Llansantffraed churchyard and the experience of the Vaughan Walk, which is marked by signboards bearing excerpts from his verse.
Paperback, 128 pages with over 30 illustrations, most in colour ISBN 978 1 910839 02 7 Price £10
Copies can be obtained from the Logaston Press website: https://logastonpress.co.uk/product/henry-vaughan-and-the-usk-valley/. The cost will be £10, post and packing free.
Or you can send a cheque for £10, payable to Fircone Books Ltd, to Logaston Press, The Holme, Church Road, Eardisley HR3 6NJ (don’t forget to say which book you are ordering and to include your address!)
Members of the Brecknock Society and Vaughan Association may order copies at a discount.